A critical care team combines a group of skilled medical professionals to provide care to a patient in an intensive care unit. Members of such teams have special training in the unique needs of intensive care patients, who tend to be very unstable and in need of constant monitoring and interventions. The goal of the team is to stabilize the patient for transfer to another unit. In cases where this is not possible, the team can discuss end-of-life care decisions with family members and people the patient has appointed as medical proxies.
Doctors are a key part of a critical care team, and may be the leaders. Typically the physician in charge is an intensivist, a doctor who has completed critical care training to focus on treatment of patients with acute life-threatening conditions. The doctor works with the rest of the team to evaluate the patient, develop a treatment plan, and assess the patient’s response over time. Sometimes multiple doctors may be involved if a consultation for a specific medical issue, like a heart condition, is necessary.
Critical care nurses provide day to day patient care, including constant monitoring of the patient and regular updates for the rest of the team. They can administer medications, change dressings, and perform other medical interventions. As advocates for the patient, they may also make sure the patient’s best interests are represented in the decision making process. A nurse coordinator or clerk may facilitate communication between critical care team members and the family.
Medical specialists like pharmacists, dietitians, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists can also be on a critical care team. They assess patients, provide treatments, and work on preparing the patient for transition. Someone recovering from a stroke, for example, might undergo sessions with a physical therapist to start developing strength and dexterity. Early intervention can increase the chance of a positive outcome.
Technicians to draw blood and perform other procedures can be on a critical care team as well. In addition, such teams may include chaplains, ethical advisors, and social workers. These members of the group can provide direct services to patients and family who may have questions and concerns. A social worker, for instance, may connect members of the family with services to help them retrofit their home to prepare for a family member's return. Ethicists can help families make decisions about end-of-life care options, organ donation, and other issues that may bring up strong emotions and ethical concerns.